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NZ First Playing Politics with Defence

Hon Max Bradford
Minister of Defence
Media Statement
24 September 1999

NZ First Playing Politics with Defence

Defence Minister Max Bradford today expressed disappointment at the lack of support for defence personnel and planning shown by NZ First’s defence spokesperson, Ron Mark MP.

Mr Mark was engaged in petty political point-scoring and in doing so was misleading members of the public about the readiness of New Zealand’s Defence Force to help make the peace in East Timor, Mr Bradford said.

“The fact that New Zealand is chartering a sealift ship to carry equipment and support personnel to East Timor is not delaying the ability of New Zealand troops to be on the ground in Dili.

“Mr Mark’s experience as a captain in the maintenance unit of the New Zealand Army does not give him any particular knowledge over and above the skilled planners in both the Australian and New Zealand headquarters operations.

“It should not be forgotten that the leader of Mr Mark’s party, Winston Peters, was Treasurer in 1997 when the decision was made not to upgrade the Charles Upham to make it fully operational,” Mr Bradford said.

“By Wednesday, 260 New Zealand troops in Darwin will have finished their pre-deployment training and acclimatisation.

“Equipped with four Amoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and 10 Holden Rodeos, they will be ready to be transported to the East Timorese capital.”

Transport will be available through New Zealand and Australian C130 Hercules aircraft and Australian naval vessels.

“The first RNZAF Iroquois helicopter and support staff were due to be deployed to Dili tonight,” Mr Bradford said.

“When to call our troops into East Timor from Darwin, and what transport and equipment they need are operational decisions for the experienced Australian joint force commander, not a backbench politician,” Mr Bradford said.

“Planning for our involvement in East Timor, has been undertaken as part of an integrated planning process with Australia and other force members.

“Mr Mark conveniently overlooks the fact that the Australian-led force doesn’t just use its APCs, but patrols in Dili on foot.

“Another 21 New Zealand APCs, 14 trucks and 60 containers of stores will be able to be landed in Dili by October 10 as the troops spread out into more remote areas around the capital

“Mr Mark’s suggestion that the NZDF should charter the Sea Cat ferry to transport our armoured vehicles to Dili displays how a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

“APCs are too heavy for the catamaran’s freight deck to support. In addition the Catamaran’s fuel tanks are not large enough for such a long journey.

“Yes, we do need the Charles Upham back in service, but the fact is that funding restraints from successive Governments, have resulted in a lack of funds to complete its conversion.

“That is now being rectified.

“I am saddened that the petty pre-election points scoring has started and is detrimental to the morale of our men and women in the field. Mr Mark is the first to complain loudly whenever a deficiency comes to light but the last to lend actual support and cooperation when needed,” Mr Bradford said.


ENDS

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